Soft Skills Training is a Misnomer.
There, I said it.
I’ll qualify myself though. I have been in the world of sales since I left the army in the mid nineties. Most of that time has been spent selling and delivering sales training courses. When I stand up to pitch for business, I cover a number of things –
- How we approach design
- How we help with the logistics of courses
- Example course content
- Training style
- What the delegates will get from the training
- Some testimonials, or other proof of how good we are
This pretty much covers everything that the potential user needs to know about, except for one thing. That one thing is the ultimate question – “How can I measure the return on investment of this training?”
Sadly for us, this is the most difficult thing in the business of sales training. I can measure feedback; we, unlike many other training companies, actually take note of our feedback sheets and use them as a management and sales tool, which is why we ask the specific questions that we ask.
I can measure knowledge retention; a short quiz at the end of the course, then 3 months in, then 6 months later, then a year later will show me whether the knowledge has stuck. I can measure behavioural change; key performance indicators are important here. Is there a question that should be asked every time? Do we know how many sales visits are needed from each salesperson? Etc
However, return on investment? Can I measure that?
Well, I can show you how much money you made last year, how much the training cost and how much money you made this year. However, that is a flawed calculation. That deal that came in the day after the training – was that anything to do with me? No. That customer that went bust the week after the training and lost you 10% of your turnover, again, nothing to do with me.
This is why “soft skills” training, particularly in sales, is a misnomer. In hard skills I can tell you whether the training has worked or not. You can either work Microsoft Excel, or you can’t.
Soft skills are harder to measure.
There was a great quote around “training our people and losing them” against “not training them and keeping them”, and my belief is that this is how you measure your ROI on training.
Measure behaviour against certain benchmarks, measure activity against what you know to be the best practice, but most of all, before and after training, measure the motivation of your sales team and measure the likelihood of the good ones remaining with your business.
Your return on investment from training is making sure that your good people get better and that they stay with you.
And you cannot put a price on that.